Organization Strategies for Japan

Putting everything together for our trip has been a real effort, and just like for our wedding we used a variety of tools and strategies to keep on top of everything (mostly). If you’re planning a big trip or event of your own, or are just curious how we did it, here’s a few of our tactics… Read More


Google Translate – The Wor(l)d at Your Fingertips

Just a few years ago, a demo video of a translation app which used a smartphone’s camera to live-translate text in other languages went around and seemed like something out of science fiction.

Of course, a lot of what our phones do is way beyond what was imagined in the early days of Star Trek (admittedly, scanning an arbitrary area for life signs and specific minerals is still restricted to niche augmented reality games…).

But that live translation capacity right at your fingertips? That still seemed pretty far-out the first time we tried it, and yet it’s free on Google Play and the App Store.

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New to the Apple Watch

I’ve wanted my very own smart watch for a while… I figured I go with apple only because I do have the rest of the ‘environment’ and I do enjoy that aspect. But a watch is a big buy and I’d waited and waited, regularly taking a peak at them in stores and trying to figure out what would be the point at which I’d allow myself to get one.

After Ed got his, I watched him use it and it made me want one even more. I also thought it would be nice to have for Japan in keeping myself organized. But it wasn’t either of those things that made me do it… I was having such a hard time at work that, after realizing we were doing quite well with finances, I’d tell Ed if I was productive one evening I wanted to award myself and get something nice for me.

So a few days later, I went and ordered my pink Apple Watch with the blue and pink band.

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Moto Z Play: Owner’s Review

I recently did a review of the Moto 360 2 watch, from the perspective of someone new to smartwatches. I realized that it, as someone who’s owned a smartphone for several years, it wouldn’t hurt to review the phone itself – considering it’s still relatively new, and pretty uncommon in a sea of Samsungs and iPhones.

So, the Moto Z Play. What does someone who owns one have to say about it?

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Learning Japanese…

Over the weekend, I took my first steps to learning some basic Japanese in preparation for our big trip.

We both bought memberships to JapanesePod101, and I’m really liking it so far – clear layout, big variety of topics to pick from, and good video/audio resources.

Less approachable is Japanese itself. Most people probably don’t even thing about it, but most languages don’t treat all sounds equally. Japanese is a mora-timed language instead of a stress-timed one; each part of a word gets the same emphasis, and takes the same amount of time to say.

I posted on Facebook; “oh, it’s not that bad, I just have to re-learn HOW TO TALK!”. Just try saying words with clear emphasis (com-PU-ter, po-TAY-to) quickly and smoothly without emphasizing any of the syllables. Learning that karaoke is pronounced kahrowkey instead of kah-RE-oh-key is maybe the biggest system shock for many beginners!

One saving grace? Japanese has the fewest unique sounds of any language, so you don’t have to do too many tongue contortions.

Oh, and Japanese has three alphabets. (“because of-****ing-course it does!” goes my Facebook live commentary). In truth, the two native alphabets (katakana and hiragana) are pretty intuitive – they look different, and are used from different things, but they’re both formed from the same vowels + a consonant. My friends say they’re actually more logical than the English alphabet! The other alphabet used in Japanese is Kanji – imported Chinese characters which symbolize entire words. There’s thousands of them.

I’m having fun learning basic spoken Japanese, but I’m probably not going to pick the the Kanji by the time we leave!